BAHRAIN AND THE WEST - unpublished letter to Irish Times, 220412.

Sir,

there are three key aspects of the Bahraini uprising that must be known:
 
Firstly, the uprising is hugely significant in proportion to the uprisings in neighbouring countries. Eighty people have been killed out of a small population of just over 1.2 million (0.6 million of these naturalised expatriates). This is equivalent to over 5000 dead in the Egyptian revolution. Nonetheless, the proportion of the population who are demonstrating has not elicited any serious expressions of concern from western powers nor serious coverage by the western media.
 
Secondly, the Bahraini authorities are playing the sectarian card against the protesters – invoking yet again, as occurred previously in Iraq, a conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslim, and the demonisation of the perceived regional evil - Iran.
 
The protesters on Pearl Roundabout in March 2011 were mainly Shia, due to the awful discrimination in all aspects of work and cultural life against this larger demographic group by the ruling Sunni elite. Yet many Sunnis were prominent amongst the protesters last year, including those arrested.
 
Thirdly and most importantly, the brutal suppression of the uprising in March 2011 by the Bahraini security forces was assisted by the western-backed Saudi military.
 
Western leaders have an appalling record of supporting and arming the despotic regimes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
 
Since the suppression of the uprising last year, and the ongoing imprisonment and torture of protesters, including doctors, some of whom were trained in Ireland, US President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron have fallen over themselves to sell armaments to both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – to the tune of at least $30 billion. The US fifth fleet continues to have safe berthing in Bahrain. The Bahraini Prince was invited to the Royal wedding last year and the King of Bahrain is invited to the upcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Banquet.
 
There is no doubt that Western Powers see the Bahraini and Saudi regimes as a bulwark against the spreading of the Arab Spring. That is why they did not call for the Grand Prix to be cancelled, nor for the release of the hunger striker protester Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, now perilously close to death.
 
If western political leaders are as supportive as they claim to be of the demands for human rights and democracy by Arab protesters throughout the region, then they should stop dealing with the despotic regimes of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.


Yours etc.

JIM ROCHE,
PRO Steering Committee,
Irish Anti War Movement,
PO Box 9260,
Dublin 1.

Tel. 087 6472737